Sophomore Quinn Cook (below) has quashed the notion of a point guard by committee, handing out 19 assists in three outstanding games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Cook was also clutch: In the 76--71 win over Louisville last Saturday, he hit a floating one-hander as the shot clock wound down, which put Duke up five with 29 seconds to play.
Last season the Tigers were offensive on the offensive glass (228th in OR%) but a couple of transfers—6'9" forwards Alex Oriakhi (24 offensive rebounds) and Tony Criswell (14)—have remedied that. Missouri (5--1) ranked 17th in OR% at week's end, with Oriakhi averaging career highs in points (11.8) and boards (8.8).
A latter-day Jimmer
Unlike most players returning after their two-year LDS missions, 6' 5" sophomore Tyler Haws (right) was in terrific shape. He became the second Cougar to score at least 20 in his first six games of a season. Through Sunday he was averaging 23.3 points (40.9% from three) as well as 6.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals.
ANOTHER STAR OGWUMIKE
With the graduation of three-time All-America Nnemkadi, sister Chiney has assumed the spotlight. The 6'3" junior forward had 18 points, including a reverse layup with 22 seconds left, to clinch the Nov. 16 victory over No. 1--ranked Baylor that snapped the Bears' 42-game winning streak.
A COMPLEMENT TO 6'7" SWINGMAN LE'BRYAN NASH
Marcus Smart, a 6'4" freshman guard from Flower Mound, Texas, is a true Guy Friday. In the Cowboys' 76--56 takedown of then No. 6 N.C. State in Puerto Rico on Nov. 18, Smart had 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and four steals while harassing preseason All-ACC point guard Lorenzo Brown (six points, one assist) into seven turnovers.
A three-point threat
The Bulldogs shot just 28.1% from behind the arc in 2011--12. Enter Rotnei Clarke, who sat out last season after transferring from Arkansas. The 6-foot guard beat Marquette on a last-second bomb, then made four threes in a victory over North Carolina that helped Butler reach the finals of the Maui Invitational.
Seeking Go-to Guy
The depleted Shockers were expected to tumble this year, but they have two quality wins already (at VCU, over Iowa at the Cancun Challenge), and juco transfer Cleanthony Early is a big reason for their early success. In the 75--63 defeat of Iowa in the Cancun final, the 6'8" small forward had 25 points and nine rebounds.
Trevor Releford and Trevor Lacey—both guards—are 23 of 45 from deep through five games, with Lacey hitting a game-winning trey against South Dakota State and Releford going 5 for 5 in a 77--55 romp over Villanova. Releford's marksmanship earned him MOP honors at the 2K Sports Classic. The Tide made just 28.9% of its threes last season.
Freshman 6'4" forward Breanna Stewart has not only taken over the post—89 points in the first five games—but also established herself as a player of the year candidate. Stewart was named MVP of the Paradise Jam tournament after putting up 57 points in the Huskies' three wins.
A floor general
Junior Keith Appling (team-leading 16.4 ppg, 49.2 FG%) has emerged as the Spartans' latest star at the point. "I'm putting about as much on his plate as he can handle," said coach Tom Izzo after Appling's clutch shooting helped avoid an upset against Oakland last Friday. "I'm not an easy guy to please, but I'm really proud of him."
ERICK W. RASCO (COOK)
PORTER BINKS (HAWS)